Like every kid who grew up in New York City, the expectation was that you would be treated to a “ride” in return for being dragged by your parents to some shopping mall for school clothes. My parents used to display a sadistic glee in tormenting me, saying that they were all out of quarters and that I should think about getting a job. I was five. Eventually, after purchasing garments which my schoolmates would inevitably ridicule me for wearing, Mom and Dad would crack and give me a quarter so that I could get my payoff for consenting to wearing a turtleneck (it was the 1970s). You should have seen what they’d make me go through for a Carvel ice cream cake on my birthday, but that’s another story.
Coin Operated Vending Machines, that’s the official designation of these mechanical bits of street furniture.
Just the other day, I decided it was too nice a day not to go out for a stroll. Not having a whole lot of time to amble about, it was decided to “keep it local” and stay in Astoria. A few errands ended up being part of the excursion, and on the way home my path brought me to 46th Street between 25th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard where I encountered one of the many concrete arches that have carried the tracks of the New York Connecting Railroad since the time of the first World War. The tracks head east to the Fresh Pond and Sunnyside Yards, and west to the Hell Gate Bridge. Hell Gate Bridge began carrying rail traffic in April of 1917, by the way, which is what makes what I encountered on 46th Street so puzzling.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case, it translates into more chances to watch great theater in Queens. Last November, the Astoria Performing Arts Center presented The Cottage, a hilarious play about sex, betrayal and maybe even love. Set in an English country home in 1923, a woman decides to come clean about an affair to her husband and her lover’s wife. Hilarity ensues as a surprising web of secrets unravels via stinging barbs, mischievous looks, and wacky plot twists. Fast-forward to this November, and Queens Theatre is ready to present nine showings of the same play (above) with a little-changed cast. Meanwhile, APAC is ready to offer In The Bones (below) 12 times throughout the month. This somber drama is based on a soldier who returns home from Afghanistan and ends his life. In a series of wrenching scenes moving ahead a year at a time, his surviving family and partner are transformed by their grief. This is a world premiere, but if it has a successful run, maybe we’ll be able to catch it at Queens Theatre next year.
Details: The Cottage, Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Avenue South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, November 7th to November 16th, Fridays at 8 pm with a special matinee on November 14th at 2 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, $25-$42.
Bonus details: In The Bones, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent Street, Astoria, November 6th through November 22nd, Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm, $18/$12 for seniors and students.
Top photo: Queens Theatre; bottom photo: Astoria Performing Arts Center
Friends have mentioned that there’s a group of people who regularly fish the waters of Halletts Cove, found on the East River coastline here in Astoria on Vernon Boulevard between 31st Avenue and 30th Drive. People fish all over the New York Harbor, of course, and will even dip a hooked line into my beloved Newtown Creek while seeking dinner – if you can believe that. Environmental officialdom sets forth a series of recommendations and rules for the consumption of fish and invertebrates captured hereabouts, which you can read for yourself right here. The same information is presented to you when obtaining a fishing license, which the folks in Albany presume the lady in the shot above has obviously attained. There are a couple of signs found at Halletts Cove advising against fishing here, but these signs are in English, and this is Astoria.
As you might guess from the clothing worn by the woman in the shot above, English is likely not her native tongue, and an attempt I made at conversation with her confirmed that assumption.
She had several traps played out in the water, of the type which you’d use to snare “killies” or minnows — this sort of thing. Friends who frequent this spot have told me that this lady, and several others, are harvesting fish from the East River on a regular if not daily basis.
On September 30th, 1916, the Hells Gate Bridge opened to rail traffic over a treacherous section of the East River. Nearly a hundred years later, the thing presents Queens with a big question.
Just the facts: Construction began in March of 1912, and was completed in 1916. The design of the thing is credited to Henry Hornbostel, under the direction of Gustav Lindenthal. The Hells Gate Bridge was co-built and owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad company and by the Pennsylvania Railroad, but today it is the property of Amtrak. Actual passenger service wouldn’t begin until April of 1917.
The Deal: Brick Café, serving fresh Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, has been a mainstay of the Astoria community for 15 years but joined the Hells Kitchen Hospitality Group in July.
Despite the change in ownership, most of what has made this restaurant so enduring will stay the same. The staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for at least five years, will still treat customers like family, and Chef Willie is still running the kitchen.
“We treat each other like family,” says Zoran, manager. “We know their names and families. People celebrate their special days here.”
Changes — such as a daily brunch and Wine Wednesday ($5 a glass and $25 bottles on select wines) — are designed to complement and not compete with the restaurant’s ethos.
Read about Brick Cafe’s Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)
The Deal: For any quality gastropub, the beer selection is a top priority. It follows then that Oktoberfest would be the biggest holiday. Or at least that’s the case at the Astoria gastropub Snowdonia, which has launched a new prix fixe menu for the holiday.
“Oktoberfest is our favorite holiday, in no small part because it primarily features beer, amazing Bavarian food, and more beer,” says Matthew Callahan, the community manager at the restaurant.
There are five main dishes, each served with two sides for $15. Choices for the main include Bratwurst with sauerkraut; Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet); Sauerbraten (wine-marinated beef roast); Rouladen (flank steak stuffed with bacon, onions and pickles); and Hasenpfeffer, while the sides on offer are German potato salad, braised red cabbage, spaetzle, or green beans.
“Traditionally Oktoberfest starts in late September and runs through October,” says Callahan. “We’re starting a bit early and running it for six weeks because the menu is just that awesome.”
Read about the Oktoberfest-themed Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)
My neighborhood in Astoria, which is the little pocket that sits at the border of Woodside and Sunnyside along Northern Boulevard, has recently enjoyed a staccato rhythm somewhat different than the usual ones. Under normal circumstance, it’s car stereos and home improvement contractors supplying the beat, while lately it’s been an MTA construction project found at the intersection of Northern, 34th Avenue, and 46th Street.
Recently, one decided to follow the clanging and whirring to see what’s going on – here’s what I found… (more…)
This Friday, Hong Kong’s prolific movie director Patrick Lung Kong will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from another Asian director, Tsui Hark, at the Museum of the Moving Image. A true pioneer of Cantonese cinema, Kong wrote 14 films that he directed between 1966 and 1979 and starred in 60 films between 1958 and 2002. The museum will then screen The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (below), followed by a conversation with Kong and Hark, a native of Vietnam who remade this film. The event will kick off Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: The Cinema of Patrick Lung Kong, a nine-film series featuring rare titles imported from Hong Kong from August 15th through August 24th.